NanoAvionics signs contract with Lemu for biodiversity observation mission

Dec. 9, 2021
Chile's first private satellite will observe biodiversity for the world’s only biosphere atlas to make conservation profitable .

VILNIUS, Lithuania - Small satellite integrator NanoAvionics has received a contract for a biodiversity observation satellite mission from Lemu1, a startup based in Chile with the only existing atlas of Earth’s biosphere, to make conservation profitable.

Essential to the biosphere atlas is “Lemu Nge” (Forest Eye in the Mapudungun language), Chile’s first private satellite, which will observe all 51 billion hectares of Earth’s surface biodiversity. Built by NanoAvionics in Lithuania, the 6U nanosatellite (the size of a shoebox) will collect hyperspectral imaging data which will help Lemu1 to identify, measure and track the value that each ecosystem generates each and every day.

Lemu Nge will start with measuring and tracking the value of the world’s forests, which cover about four billion hectares or 31 percent of the Earth's land surface. Flying in a Sun-synchronous orbit (SSO), with revisit rates from one to seven days for the same region, the satellite will provide geospatial images for Lemu’s biosphere atlas. Once the mission is completed, an onboard propulsion system, using a liquid metal ion thruster, will allow the nanosatellite to safely deorbit, leaving no space debris behind. Its launch aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 is planned for 2023.

From the obtained geospatial data, supported by satellites from NASA and ESA as well as ethical-AI, Lemu is able to analyse, measure and evaluate information about ecosystems, starting with the world’s forests. Lemu then assigns a value for each ecosystem, a Lemu Index.

The analyzed results will be critical in helping reduce deforestation and degradation of ecosystems. It will also increase the success of reforestation and restoration efforts, improving Lemu’s ability to precisely measure carbon sequestration and other nature-based solutions. The biodiversity atlas will be made available to other organizations and people in the nature conservation community worldwide.

The key instrument of Lemu Nge satellite is a high-resolution hyperspectral camera supplied by Simera from South Africa. Supported by the camera’s artificial vision, it allows to segment land cover and vegetation biodiversity in unusual detail, more than 20x the current resolution. The camera is capable of measuring 32 spectral bands with wavelengths between 450 to 900 nanometers (the human eye sees wavelengths from 400 nm to 700 nm). It’s ground sampling distance (GSD), the distance between pixel centers measured on the ground, has a resolution of 4.75m. The satellite completes one orbit around the Earth every 90 minutes, resulting in 14 orbits each day.

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